Beijing with Kids

Education Without Yawns

Learning doesn’t have to be boring! There are excellent ways to teach the kids a few things about history while they have a good time. You can't miss with the Forbidden City, the largest surviving palace complex in the world. There are plenty of wide-open spaces here for kids to run amok in, so that while you're appreciating the finest collection of imperial architecture in China, your little ones can imagine what it was like to have thousands of mandarins catering to their every whim. Sort of like having parents.

For museums, the Military Museum of the People's Republic of China is a toy soldier–lover's dream come true. It has endless collections of AK-47s, captured tanks, missile launchers, and other war toys. Your kids will love every minute of China's 5,000-year military history. Easy access by subway ensures they won't have to ask, "Are we there yet?" And the China Science & Technology Museum is a paradise for curious kids, this museum features hands-on interactive displays with a strong focus on Chinese inventions like the compass, gunpowder, and paper. The on-site "Fundazzle" playground will keep your little one entertained even when the robot performance is finished.

Performances

Take the kids out to see amazing acrobats and they'll see that hand-eye coordination doesn't only come from playing video games. To really inspire, look for a performance featuring child acrobats who dedicate every day to perfecting their awe-inspiring craft. Another great entertainment option is the China Puppet Theater, where actors manipulate huge puppets through performances of Western classics like The Nutcracker and Chinese classics like The Monkey King. There's a playground at the theater, too, for kids who just won't sit still.

Activities

China's love affair with kites goes back nearly 3,000 years. Head for the open spaces of Tiananmen Square, Ditan Park, or the Temple of Heaven to fly a kite. Older folks with decades of flying experience will help send your child's kite soaring into the air.

Kids love to climb, so climbing the Great Wall is a win-win. After climbing hundreds (or thousands) of steps, your little one will sleep soundly while dreaming of turning back the marauding Mongol hordes.

Head to Ritan Park (Altar of the Sun). Little tykes can ride the merry-go-round, older kids can try their luck on the climbing wall, and you can stop in for a drink at the outdoor Stone Boat, a particularly kid-friendly bar.

Who doesn't love a boat ride? Cruise the imperial lakes at Houhai in a paddleboat, and take the family for a rectangular pie at Hutong Pizza when you get back to shore. In winter the lakes freeze over, and kids in ice chairs gleefully glide across the surface.

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